COVID pandemic emergency over, WHO says; what that means for the Heartland

As the COVID-19 pandemic emergency is ending, according to WHO, we talk to a Heartland health department about what's next.
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 5:33 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ULLIN, Ill. (KFVS) - It’s no longer a global health emergency, but it is here to stay. That’s the message on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization.

That announcement on Friday, May 5 from the head of the WHO is a sign of worldwide progress in treating and preventing the spread of COVID.

At the Southern Seven Health Department, the focus remains on local COVID care and the changes coming when the U.S. lifts its own public health emergency on May 11.

“It’s therefore with great hope that I declare COVID-19 over as a global health emergency,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization director-general.

The announcement is considered a major step toward the end of the pandemic that left millions dead and economies struggling to recover.

“That doesn’t mean that covid has gone away,” said Shawnna Rhine, community outreach coordinator for Southern Seven.

Rhine with the Southern Seven Health department is getting ready for next week, when the U.S. health emergency ends. She said you will see an end to many of the free services offered during the height of the pandemic.

“For example, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and treatment those during the pandemic have all been free. Those will be something that you have to pay for going forward,” Rhine said.

After May 11, the CDC will also stop tracking COVID cases at the community level. Rhine said Illinois will continue monitoring cases, even though actual numbers can be hard to lock down.

“Because of home testing and people just staying home when they’re sick and doing what they need to do, it’s hard to know for sure how many cases we do have in our region. So that’s why we continue to tell people make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines, make sure you’re following those continued safety measures,” she explained.

Even with changes on both the global and national levels, Rhine said they will still provide help for COVID patients who need it.

“We will continue to give COVID-19 vaccines past May 11, we’ll just need to make sure we have insurance information and that your provider can cover those for you,” she said.

Rhine said the Illinois Department of Public Health will continue to report the weekly number of COVID-19 hospital admissions, cases and deaths along with weekly vaccination data.